Contrary to the expectations of many in the financial sector, the chancellor George Osborne has elected to maintain the tax relief on pension contributions in his 2016 budget.
As it stands, the tax relief system allows for a portion of a person’s income – that would otherwise be taken in tax – to enter their pension instead. This relief is at the same rate as their band of income tax (i.e. 20% for basic rate taxpayers and 40%+ for higher rate taxpayers).
It was expected that the chancellor would introduce instead a system akin to an Isa where there is no tax relief on contributions but withdrawals are free of tax.
The benefits to the government would have been significant short-term gains in tax revenue (some estimate the relief is worth £21bn to savers) while reducing longer-term revenues. Although many have campaigned for a change to the way pension tax is handled, there was a fear that further changes would have led to an even greater administrative burden on businesses which are already having to invest time and effort into auto-enrolment.
Perhaps as a concession in the direction of reform, however, the chancellor did announce the Lifetime Isa as a saving system aimed primarily at potential property buyers, which for many will be seen as an alternative to the traditional pension.
The Lifetime Isa applies to anyone who will be under 40 years of age in April 2017; they will be able to save up to £4,000 and receive a 25% contribution from the government, every year until the age of 50.
Whether the anticipated pension changes will appear in future budgets is something that no-one can predict, so as ever our advice would be to consider all your options and speak an expert who will be able to talk you through the possibilities. The most important thing to remember is that the sooner you start planning for retirement, the more you’re likely to be able to enjoy that retirement to the fullest.
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